‘My first baby was born by C-section. It wasn’t planned, it was an emergency.’

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“My first baby was born by C-section. It wasn’t planned, it was an emergency. I had been induced at 41 weeks pregnant, and after 4 days of drugs, and labor, and 3 hours of pushing, it ended in the middle of the night in an operating room. I was conscious, but I was not present. I felt entirely disconnected from what was happening to me. I was lost in grief. In the end, I had a large, healthy, baby boy and an easy recovery, but, it was still traumatic. I hated it. I was devastated. I mourned the loss of a “natural birth” for months, for years.

And then I got pregnant with #2 and became determined to have a VBAC. My doctor said I was a great candidate for It. It was a very healthy pregnancy. I worked out 5 or 6 days a week throughout the entire pregnancy. I saw a Webster certified chiropractor and did acupuncture. I ate 6 dates a day and drank huge mason jars full of red raspberry leaf tea. I did more squats than any sane person ever should, and none of it did anything for me. My baby would not move down to engage in my pelvis.

In the final few weeks faced with another C-section, I got really depressed. The last week of the pregnancy were some of my darkest days. I stopped sleeping. I cried for hours. I had no control. I was not able to be a mom to my son, and my marriage was suffering. I hated my body for failing me, and I resented my unborn baby for not coming on her own.

In my last sleepless night before the surgery, feeling completely cried out, I took to Google to find out how I could make the best of a truly unwanted C-section. I spent hours reading about ‘gentle C-sections.’ I ended up writing a ‘birth plan’ which was basically a list of requests. My list was pretty simple. I asked for a clear drape so that I could watch what was happening. I asked for my arms free and on my chest. I asked for delayed cord cutting. I asked for the baby to be put onto my chest ASAP. I wanted as much skin to skin as any mother delivering vaginally might get. I wasn’t sure which of my requests they might be able to accommodate, but I was desperate for any shred of control I could get.

The morning of the C-section I was numb. There were no tears left. I was ready to be done. There wasn’t anything that was going to make this okay. But I was wrong. The staff at the hospital, the team of women that came together to bring my baby into the world was incredible. Each member of the team including my nurse, the surgeon, my OB, even the anesthesiologist, came and spoke to me in pre-op. I talked about my previous experience, my fears, my heartache, and they listened, and each one held my hand and assured me a better experience this time. They also agreed to my list of requests. Somehow, they even found a sample clear drape that they had been testing months ago and were pretty sure they didn’t have anymore.

My OB walked me into the OR. She held my hand and reassured me during my spinal. The prep went quickly, and a blue curtain was put up in front of my face. My arms were free and on my chest. My husband came to my side, excited that I was feeling better about things. The doctors worked quickly, cutting through scar tissue from the previous C-section. Before I knew it, they were working to pull the baby from me. It turned out she was a big baby, and she was wedged inside of me. It took both doctors and a vacuum to get her out. I was relieved to know that in all likelihood she would have never dropped, and never made it through my pelvis. This surgery had been necessary after all. Then they had her, and they dropped the blue curtain, leaving the clear curtain between my face and my precious baby being lifted from my stomach. The delayed cord cutting went quicker than I had expected, and then the nurse was bringing her around the table to be put on my chest. Within two minutes of her birth, she was on my chest. I got to soothe her cries and rub her little purple body into life.

I will cherish this moment in my memory forever. She was all mine. After a bit, she went with my husband to the recovery room while they stapled me closed and moved me from table to bed, but I was only away from her for 15 minutes. During this time my anesthesiologist congratulated me, encouraged me to soak in all of my newfound happiness, and she gave me a scalp massage. When we got to recovery, they were just finishing footprints and weighing my daughter, then they put her back on my chest and put her to my breast. She latched immediately and went to work. I was breastfeeding her at under an hour old. An experience I never expected to have with a C-section. I looked down at this new face, a face I had expected to resent, and I felt overwhelming love and understanding. My daughter would have never made it vaginally. That’s why she wouldn’t move down to engage in my pelvis. She arrived the only way she could, and it wasn’t traumatic, it was gentle. My heart had been instantly healed by this experience. I felt completely better, happy, and totally at peace, not just with this C-section but also with my first somehow. My heart swelled with gratitude to the incredible team of women who honored my wishes and followed through to make this birth all the happiness that it was meant to be, and to my husband who rode the horrible emotional roller coaster of a depressed pregnant women and stayed by my side through everything. In the end, this C-section turned out to be what I needed, and more than I ever expected. Every time I look at my daughter, I know that she was sent to me in this way to heal my heart.”

Alicia A. Atchison

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alicia A. Atchison. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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